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Jumping the Turnstiles

The city and the state are looking for money and they don’t have to look too far to find 400 million euros each year in lost revenue. That’s how much it costs the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français and the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) in missed train and bus fares every year thanks to freeloading riders.

The fraudulent riders manage to save themselves some euro bucks by buying reduced fare tickets without the right, not composting their tickets or riding without a ticket if they can get through the turnstiles. There are also scams that sell fraudulent tickets via the Internet.

 RATP campaign to recover lost revenueRATP campaign to recover lost revenueRATP campaign to recover lost revenueRATP campaign to recover lost revenue

I’ll bet everyone in Paris has witnessed someone jumping the turnstiles or pushing their way through with another person to avoid paying for the ride. Once a long time ago, not long after moving here, a guy tried to squeeze his way through the turnstile with me, but I stopped him and wouldn’t let him by. (I was wearing a black leather jacket with big padded shoulders and felt particularly tough.) He managed to get through with another person, but came running after me on the quay, screaming at the top of his lungs, accusing me of being a racist and put his screaming face close to mine to make his threatening point.

That pissed me off royally. NO ONE calls me a racist! So, I just screamed back at him a whole lot of vulgarities about how dare he call me such a thing while he hadn’t paid for his ride like the rest of us! For some reason, I never felt threatened — guess it was that tough black leather jacket and a dose of adrenalin. All the arguing was in English and as the train pulled into the station, we both got on still arguing loudly all the while.

I glanced around the car and saw everyone wide eyed from our assault on the once quiet space, so without thinking twice, I yelled at him to “DO ME A FAVOR AND GET THE [YOU KNOW WHAT VULGARITY] AT THE OTHER END OF THE CAR, NOW!”

To my amazement, he did just that. He actually turned on his heels and went to the other side of the car in a huff. I took a seat and my knees went weak when I realized the danger I had put myself in…all because of that black leather jacket! The guy could have killed me!

Oh well, he didn’t, and I felt terribly empowered.

Just recently, I rode the Métro out to La Défense and didn’t realize that exiting required a special ticket other than the normal ticket for zones 1 and 2. This is not obvious, even after all these years that the zone changes just before landing at La Défense. The turnstiles trapped me, along with others to whom this had happened, and there was no one there to assist or sell tickets. So, there was no choice, but to find a way to exit, fraudulently of course.

(See an interactive map showing the zones or download our pdf version.)

Meanwhile, the SNCF and the RATP are looking for ways of recuperating and stopping the loss, naturally. An organization belonging to the internal security service (SUGE) has been established to battle the problem to provide visible presence at the stations. Mobile teams of agents (controlleurs) have been added in the tens of thousands costing 95 million euros a year. (Failure to provide a valid ticket can result in a fine of 35€, payable on the spot with a credit card.) Advertising campaigns have been put in place to encourage riders to pay up. Other methods to reduce the fraud have included the Navigo pass system and equipment that gates and controls offenders.

The rate of fraud on buses and trams is twice as high than it is on the Métro and even more when compared to the RER and Paris intramural trains. More activity takes place in the north and northeast, south and southeast parts of the city, so these areas are subject to daily and permanent presence of inspectors.

Many agencies have also come together to increase the security and reduce the petty fraud — a multi-task-force initiative begun in 2009, led by the General Secretariat of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Crime made up of the transport authorities, transport operators, the Association of Public and Rail Transport, the National Federation of Passenger Transport (FNTV) and the relevant ministries.

What the French authorities are missing here is the “Broken Windows Theory” employed by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to clean up the Big Apple…which was appeared to be very effective. The theory was introduced in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling stating that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition stops vandalism and further escalation into more serious crime.

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.” (

In New York City, within a ten-year period (1990-2000), violent crime decreased by 56%. Giuliani was able to bring down crime more than anyone in the country — maybe in the history of the country, but, he also hired thousands of new officers, and that presence didn’t hurt one bit, nor did the drop in the unemployment rate at the time!

Regardless of criticism, he continued to claim “It worked because we not only got…an improvement in the quality of life, but massive reductions in homicide, and New York City turned from the crime capital of America to the safest large city in the country.”

So, if the French task-force wants to reduce the fraud, perhaps they should take Giuliani’s lead and think more about cleaning up the Métro and the buses so that we all have a lot more respect for the system instead of spending so much money to threaten the public with enhanced policing presence! I bet no one will complain…especially if it works!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - The Adrian Leeds Group, LLCAdrian Leeds

Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

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